Organisms run on stimulus and response, humans have the added perk of directing our behaviors if we so choose. The primal instincts of attaining food and reproducing still pervade everyday life but can be dampened and controlled. Supreme control over these desires is akin to what we conceptualize as enlightenment and freedom from the bonds of suffering.
Many do not possess this kind of willful control over immediate compulsions; when there is food we eat, when there are mates we flirt, when there is a television we tune out. This is largely in part from the dopaminergic systems which underlie reward and pleasure responses. Eating, sex, and television all produce boosts in dopamine which signals the mind to hone into these stimuli for survival.
People, like all organisms, are vastly complex living and breathing chemical reactions. Organisms use biochemical mechanisms to navigate the environment and not die. Clearly, this is a reductionist argument, turning the human into a reactionary entity. But it is nevertheless apt to reveal just why a morning routine is a vital part of being in today’s society.
In today’s world, food is abundant, sex is abundant, and entertainment is overflowing. For many people, this sends the chemical mechanisms in place to keep us alert and alive into a spiral. Some prime examples are the rising depression rates, increasing self reported dissatisfaction, and most clear of all, the skyrocketing obesity rates. Why? Because there is a chemical reaction that has too much of one reagent and not enough of the others.
That reagent is instant gratification, whether it is television, the phone, sugary foods, or pornography, people have a hard time regulating reward systems. This is because in the early days of life, the reward systems were mortally necessary to ensure the organism could acquire the resources it needed. Now, resources are abundant.
The game has changed, the goal is not to attain as much as possible (which used to work for survival), now it is to reject what is known to be detrimental. A few factors make this exceedingly difficult:
- The consequences take time to manifest
- The information can be muddled
- The will to resist is non-existent
For many, obesity creeps up and before long there is a hard fought battle to be had in order to return to a healthy BMI. The information is overwhelming and much of it is not accessible to the average person. Finally, many people suffer from the lack of willpower.
Points 1 and 2 resolve themselves upon building up willpower. To build up willpower is itself a matter of biology, and more broadly, of habits. Habits are interesting because they occur once in place whether the person is aware of it or not. A person can build positive habits but lose them once more, over time, if they are not kept in check. Habits are like pets, they have to be nurtured and kept healthy, if left to their own devices then they will get in the trash, ruin furniture, and piss everywhere.
Such is the nature of an individual’s habits. The process of building them happens with or without the consent of the individual and not building any habits is a habit all the same.
Therefore, the morning routine is an essential part of a person’s life because it provides an opportune window to cultivate habits. By beginning slowly with a morning routine, an individual exposes themselves to the power of their own will. The brain reorganizes itself to accommodate for the new allotment of time until it becomes normalized. Neurons eventually become excited each morning on their own accord until there is no longer a question of whether the activity will ensue. Despite taking up time, a morning routine frees up a tremendous amount of mental space for real planning and purposeful actions.
The morning routine is a powerful tool for cultivating willpower and learning how habits work. When a person has cultivated deliberate habits, a sense of control over oneself is inevitable and leads directly to a sense of well-being. Once understood, an individual’s eating of food, having sex, or watching the television becomes an actual choice. Whereas before, it was merely a habit, the thing that occurs on repeat on account of perceived biological necessity. That perceived biological necessity is none other than those hyper-stimulated dopamine pathways.
Humans are capable of great things, but in order to achieve them, it is imperative that control over the self is harnessed. Otherwise, the tools we make and the goals we set will be limited to the scope of what is immediately desirable.
As a final note, it matters less exactly what the routine consists of so long as they are things that demand a form of sustained attention. They must be activities that require the individual to override the initial program, per se.
Here are some examples:
- Working out
- Planning the day
There are also things that stifle the purpose of a morning routine:
- Using the phone
- Checking social media
- Sleeping in
- Waking up with no time to have a routine
- Doing Nothing
- Worrying about the day